SAN FRANCISCO — Testing preferred marketing messages and delivery channels will provide the highest return on your marketing investment by costing you less than untested efforts, and granting you the ability to compare responses to different messages, competing media channels, and various target audiences.

By the point in the marketing process that you are ready to run test ads, you will have created your strategic planning goals for the company, a marketing budget and a promotional calendar for the year.

There are nine test steps that are the beginning of implementing the marketing plan and reaping the rewards. In Part 1, let’s look at the first four:

1. Determine Goal of Campaign(s)

Using your master promotional calendar, determine the primary goal of the next campaign. For example, perhaps your strategic planning sessions have revealed that a high-return goal is to expand profitable household sales. Let’s also assume that in your plant, area rugs are easy for you to process and have potential for greater usage by your existing customers and target prospects.

So, in this example, your primary campaign goal could be to “double sales of area rugs in the next quarter as compared to last year sales.” Note: This goal is specific, measurable and time-certain.

2. Determine the Target of Message

Using a combination of your POS data, sales history and prior response records, determine which target group(s) can provide the largest sales increases for your promotional campaign investment.

Often, your best return will be by increasing the “share-of-wallet” spent with your company by existing customers. You probably offer many services that most of your active customers don’t currently use, so letting them know what other services you can provide can be a win for them and a win for you.

In the case of the area rugs, you can pick up additional business from customers who have never had you clean their rugs, but you can also get more rug business from customers you have served by reminding them “it’s time” based on their last cleaning date or on the holiday or seasonal cleaning calendar.

There is also a huge potential new-prospect market if you tap into a specific group of consumers who just need to know your capabilities. For example, condo associations have been a rich vein of business for rugs in common areas, as well as for introductions to the individual condo-unit owners who see what a great job you did on the lobby rug.

3. Craft Potential Messages

What are the benefits for your customers to using your service? In the example of rugs, a list of benefits might include:

  • Convenience: pickup and delivery; fast turnaround; additional service from an already trusted provider; eliminate another chore from their long list.
  • Cleaner, Healthier Home Environment: remove pet odors/stains; provide a kid-healthy environment; brighter look of clean rug.
  • Longer Life of Valuable Investment.
  • Make a Good Impression: friends; family; business associates.

Ranking the benefits from the customer perspective will lead you to the right message. For example, new parents might be most motivated by a “healthy baby environment,” or, for a broader consumer group, if the holiday season is coming soon and guest visits are imminent, the most important message might be “Impress the Boss” or “Pass the Mother-in-Law Test.”

Ensure that your copywriter and graphics designer (internal or external) both know all the consumer benefits, your business goals and the reasons for them, and as much about your target audience as possible. Include past successes to build upon—such as photos of kids with dogs sitting on a rug—that have been effective. Then let them be creative for each of the intended recipient groups.

4. Review Available Media Channels

With so many possible ways to communicate with target audiences, it is essential to select the most efficient ones to optimize your ad budget.

Your “best customer” profiling will provide insight into the most valued channels for your best customers and like prospects.

All types of media can be effective in certain circumstances, and a combination of mutually supportive media is usually best for a successful campaign.

For example, if your customers are young professionals, newspaper or TV will probably not be effective. If your target is traditional, mature homeowners, both can be effective. Since so much advertising has abandoned these two traditional media options, and they can be minutely geo-targeted, rates are much more affordable than you might think.

Conversely, electronic communication can be highly cost-effective if the message is valuable and can break through the noise and clutter of the internet. Direct snail mail can also be valuable with a very targeted list and an impressive message.

All promotional campaigns should reinforce your overall branding image and be reinforced with your logo, packaging, van, store, signage and hangtag graphics. All media should be identifiable as yours at just a quick glance.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!